Fiction

2016

‘The Prince Who Gave Up Her Empire’ in Apex. Queer desert epic fantasy lightly influenced by Arthuriana, deconstructing gendered language and prophetic tropes. 7,200 words.

‘Under She Who Devours Suns’ in Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Melishem and Sikata should both have been champions for Tessellated Talyut. On the tension between love, duty, sacrifice, and the self-destructive obsession with becoming the best. 5,900 words.

‘The Finch’s Wedding and the Hive That Sings’ in Clockwork Phoenix 5 (ed. Mike Allen, Mythic Delirium). In the Cotillion, the Song is all. A commander bargains with an oracle for favorable omens, but her bid for war is complicated by that most difficult of all battles: marriage negotiation between the powerful. Poly marriage, politics, a theocracy of birds and music. Think WH40K, but queer and intersectional. 7,200 words.

‘Comet’s Call’ in Mythic Delirium. Hu Ziyi is both arms dealer and weapon, veteran of many wars, summoned to a dying city built on a legacy of genocide to lift a curse. 4,100 words.

‘That Which Stands Tends Toward Free Fall’ in Clarkesworld Magazine. In a not-too-far future, the geopolitical map has changed irrevocably and war has become the default. A retired soldier has spent years in Ayutthaya, avoiding her former duties, until they catch up in the shape of her commander and her AI child. Ghost in the Shell meet post-colonialism in Thailand meet lesbian soldiers. 5,800 words.

‘In Them the Stars Open Like Doors’ in Flesh: A Southeast Asian Urban Anthology (ed. Cassandra Khaw and Angeline Woon, Buku Fixi). In suburban Thailand, a woman gives birth, over and over, to galaxies. Soon, they will kill her. Magic realism. 2,600 words.

‘Dream Command’ on Harlot Media. Soldier women in a dangerous game. Military SF thriller in the near future, with a kinky queer bent (graphic sex). 6,700 words.

‘The Beast at the End of Time’ in Apex Magazine. As the world marches toward the guillotine of its finale, a beast wakes and a woman heavy with her mothers’ legacy seeks to repair humanity’s last refuge. A bit Jekyll-Hyde, a bit Beauty and the Beast circa nanomachine apocalypse, all lesbian. 4,000 words.

2015

‘The Occidental Bride’ in Clarkesworld Magazine. Heilui, a Hong Kong anthropologist, buys an ex-mafia Finnish bride. Her new wife Kerttu must learn to adapt to civilian life in an unfamiliar land, an unfamiliar culture… and perhaps together the two of them will catch the terrorist behind the war that sank Europe. 6,700 words.

‘The Insurrectionist and the Empress Who Reigns Over Time’ in Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Yin Sanhi is the woman who foments and leads revolutions, knowing always that she’s one step from her fall – and Empress Narasorn proves her equal. Epic fantasy in 6,000 words.

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Winterglass, forthcoming from Apex

Sci-Fantasy Novella Acquistion: Winterglass

Apex Publications is pleased to announce the acquisition of Winterglass by Benjanun Sriduangkaew. Winterglass is a fictional sci-fantasy about one woman’s love for her homeland (Sirapirat) and her determination to defeat the Winter Queen who has overtaken the land.

I’ve been sitting on this for a while. I wrote Winterglass from late 2015 through much of 2016, on and off. It went through a couple drafts (there was a lot of silly flab, some unnecessary secondary characters and a subplot that went nowhere) before it was ready. It also turned out a good deal longer than expected; I thought it would be, at most, 15,000 words but the final manuscript is more than twice that. Oops. That makes it the longest thing I’ve ever had published, so far. (Yes, it’s longer than Scale-Bright by a good measure.)

Here’s the blurb.

The city-state Sirapirat once knew only warmth and monsoon. When the Winter Queen conquered it, she remade the land in her image, turning Sirapirat into a country of snow and unending frost. But an empire is not her only goal. In secret, she seeks the fragments of a mirror whose power will grant her deepest desire.

At her right hand is General Lussadh, who bears a mirror shard in her heart, as loyal to winter as she is plagued by her past as a traitor to her country. Tasked with locating other glass-bearers, she finds one in Nuawa, an insurgent who’s forged herself into a weapon that will strike down the queen.

To earn her place in the queen’s army, Nuawa must enter a deadly tournament where the losers’ souls are given in service to winter. To free Sirapirat, she is prepared to make sacrifices: those she loves, herself, and the complicated bond slowly forming between her and Lussadh.

If the splinter of glass in Nuawa’s heart doesn’t destroy her first.

It is very loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Snow Queen’, set in a South East Asia analogue that’s been subjugated under an eternal winter. It is queer (of course), post-colonial, and probably several kinds of fantasy. It contains, among other things, a big dog. I love big dogs!

Coming late 2017. I’m pretty hugely excited.

First Impressions: Masquerada

I’ve been playing Masquerada: Songs and Shadows, a tactical story-heavy RPG set in a Venetian city of politics, intrigue, and civil war. From the title screen on I was charmed: the music is intense, gorgeous, and matches the game’s aesthetics perfectly. Much of the game’s story is told through hand-drawn panels, stylish, minimalist and very elegant indeed. I’d say it reminds me the most of Transistor.


I found my favorite character pretty fast, right in the tutorial that drops us in media res into the last chapter of Cyrus Gavar’s life, a man bent on ridding the city of its oppressive system where the haves command the magical masks (Mascherines) and deny access to them to the have-nots. The city—the Citte—is quickly established as a place fraught with power struggles, and before long Cyrus is executed for his role in leading the insurrection. (My newly found favorite character, Lucia Shuria, is the lady up there and the one who kills him.)

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‘The Prince Who Gave Up Her Empire’

‘The Prince Who Gave Up Her Empire’

Terasadh arrived in the world with a force so abrupt that the resin womb holding her split in two, cracking as she took her first breath and cried out from the shock of being alive.

Her aunt, King Nadjana, was the sole witness; she cleared the infant’s throat of birth-fluids and warmed the infant’s breath with her own. For a week the king secluded herself. In that week she fed the newly-made prince with the juice of ripe language-fruits, the milk of wisdom-orchids, and the nectar of doorway birds. Royal birth is a delicate matter, and she would trust no other to anoint her heir.

This one’s a big story for me, literally: 7,200 words. For the record, I never thought I’d be able to place an epic fantasy at Apex.

I describe this story as ‘queer desert Arthuriana’, though its connections to Arthuriana are extremely loose. I picked apart some of the base components and transposed. There is an Arthur figure, but not exactly; there is a Mordred figure (and Mordred’s mom), but not precisely. The analogues are intentionally very rough. What I wanted to play around with—rather than ‘King Arthur, but queer’—was the idea of prophecy, agency, predestination, and the lost monarch who’ll return to serve her land in its time of need.

More forefront is that I wanted to work with pronoun fluidity, the gendering of nouns. I don’t like gendered common nouns, as a rule, and a lot of them are aesthetically ugly: authoress, stewardess, policewoman. Many are outmoded and have fallen out of use, but others remain firmly gendered: queen, princess, mother, niece, sister.

I don’t think the genders of the characters in ‘Prince’ need spelling out—that’s part of the point—but it’s probably worth saying that Terasadh is non-binary. (A story about deconstructing gendered language where everyone is cis would, of course, be absolutely lazy.)

TUBS TUBS TUBS – supersized skincare

I mean tubs of skincare. Asian brands do their share of putting out products that come in huge tubs, usually 300 ml, mostly aloe vera-based but sometimes you do come across nicer ones with snail filtrate or horse oil. I like them as multi-task products you can use on your body, or as wash-off masks, or… you get the idea. They are very cost-effective and you can layer them up in lieu of a multi-product skincare routine. Prices quoted include shipping, since most of you are probably based in the west.

The SAEM Horse Oil Soothing Gel Cream ($12). It’s much cheaper than the Geurisson horse oil cream, though the ingredient list is not as nice, as this one has a good deal of aloe vera as filler. Still, aloe vera is good for your skin and horse oil is even better. It sinks in slower than an all-aloe gel, is thicker and milkier, and can serve as a decent last moisturizing step or a sleeping pack. (Available from Testerkorea for $4.39, but they do shipping by the weight and this is a pretty heavy item.)

Tony Moly Pure Snail Moisture Gel ($10). 90% snail filtrate! No aloe vera! It does contain alcohol denat and a lot of fragrance, but it’s a lot of snail in a big tub.

The FACE Shop Jeju Aloe Fresh Soothing Gel ($9.25). Good old aloe vera. No fancy ingredients (there’s a bunch of plant extracts but in this sort of product, it’s not going to be a large concentration), but if your skin likes aloe vera, here’s 300 ml of it. Contains alcohol.

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‘Under She Who Devours Suns’ is up at Beneath Ceaseless Skies

By the time Melishem returns to her birth-city Tessellated Talyut, there is little of her that anyone can recognize. Her gaze burns unhuman amber, her bare scalp glistens with meteorite blood, her articulated arms murmur with live moths. Antennae peek through the gaps in her joints, more delicate and superb than any lace.

Her bare feet track salt across the earth, leaving shriveled worms and withered grass in her wake. She has been walking a long time, unresting and unseeing of any sight save her objective.

She arrives before the Gate of Glaives at sunrise, the sky green and trembling behind her.

“I’ve come back,” she rasps in a voice of burnt honey and rust, more bitter than sweet, “to fight Sikata Lantern-of-God.”

There’s a common wuxia premise: the wandering martial artist who seeks to become the best of the best. Their method of proving themselves is brute – they go around challenging warriors (sometimes entire schools), armies, and so on. They take extreme measures to improve themselves, years of brutal training; they may come across and aid those in distress, though this is somewhat incidental to their quest of improving their skills. It’s a romanticized ideal, but it’s also a self-destructive obsession – these wondering warriors have virtually no other concerns or desires but to prove themselves the ultimate swordsman or martial artist.

In ‘Under She Who Devours Suns’, Melishem should have been one of her birth city’s champions, but the laws dictate there can be only one – and her friend Sikata took the title by besting her. This is what happens after someone like that has remade herself in order to achieve the title of the best. It’s a bit Claymore in that the system around them forces fighters to obsess over who’s the best and who ranks above whom, and it’s also a bit Claymore in that the women in the story have a complex, deadly relationship with each other.

(I don’t call the god in the story a goddess, even though she is gendered female. I’ve grown quite resistant to gendered common nouns, but more on that when my next fantasy story goes up.)

A reader has been very kind and thorough about this story, providing such close reading that would have been equal to any novel review easily. It’s a tremendous and lovely gift to be read, let alone so exactly and thoughtfully.

Work such as Under She Who Devours Suns demonstrate that we are indeed living in a SFF renaissance, even if there are those who resist and desire to pull us back into a “golden age” that was never that golden and didn’t really exist. While there has always been excellent SFF the genre sections at bookstores and libraries were usually dominated by a sea of mediocre and derivative shit that, for some reason, is still defended by a group of MRA-type nerds who are content with mediocrity. Now things are beginning to change; more interesting work is being published and becoming popular. Despite the fact that some people are pushing back with an eye towards backwards literature is just a sign that the best days of “genre” fiction are upon us.

Charles Peysaur at Quick Sip Reviews was also very nice about it!

To me this is a story of longing and, in some ways, obsession. With devotion and with purpose and with missing something in the pursuit of that purpose. But it’s also, I think, about institutions and duty and how that duty can poison relationships, twist people’s lives. Pervert justice. The story features Melishem and Sikata, two women who grew up together, who were equals until the day they had to fight each other for a single position. Until the day the system they worked under, the customs and government and everything, tore them apart. And in so doing it threw the world they had built together into chaos, doubt, and dissolution. To me it shows how focusing on the best and only the best is damaging. By setting up a system where there can be only one at the top, it fosters a spirit of competition over harmony.

It Turns Out Everyone Was Right About Aldnoah.Zero

I don’t think this show knows what it is doing. Well – it does know what it’s doing in that it got Urobuchi to write the first 3 episodes to lure people in, but after that it’s a total shitshow.

On one hand, it’s incredibly perfunctory – it has all the requisite components of a typical mecha title (including child soldiers – sorry, teenage pilots) that it brings in slightly different directions than expected, while at the same time it still falls back on the traps of unfortunate fanservice and cramming in a ton of empty spectacle. With Psycho-Pass you know it’s saying something, the writing and pacing and the rest are imbued with the conviction of intentionality; with this it’s more going through motions, phoning it in, so much so that Urobuchi’s signature (killing a ton of major characters off) is either softened or absent. For a change, this is actually a bad thing.

Count Cruteo roleplaying American foreign policy

What kept me watching was partly that it’s almost word-for-word an aggressively subdued Code Geass, to the point that the evil emperors look downright related (and there are the references; Inaho is nicknamed ‘Orange’ and gets a cybernetic eye; who else is nicknamed Orange-kun and gets a cybernetic eye…). There’s a Lelouch, an Euphemia, a Suzaku, even sort of a Kallen. It’s slightly bemusing to watch, though unsurprising seeing that Urobuchi’s had experience doing ‘What if Show X, But My Way’ (Psycho-Pass being a Ghost in the Shell with Urobuchi philosophy, and no fanservice).

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Kiran Oliver’s DAYBREAK RISING cover reveal

My friend Kiran Oliver’s debut novel, Daybreak Rising, is coming out September 21, 2016 from Torquere Press. It’s a lesbian fantasy and I’m pleased to share the cover reveal. :)

daybreakrising1400

Here’s a bit about DAYBREAK RISING:

22-year-old Celosia Brennan spent sixteen years being raised as the heroine her nation needed. A dual-touched Elementalist with both the power to conjure fire and see glimpses of her future, Celosia was the best hope at overthrowing the oppressive Council in a mission called Daybreak, an attempt to secure justice for the massacre of her people and so many others. There’s just one problem: she couldn’t. Celosia broke down after realizing the enormity of her task, and is struggling to make things right while the blood of her fellows stains her hands.

Now branded a failure, Celosia desperately volunteers for the next mission: taking down the corrupt Council with a team of her fellow elementally-gifted mages. Leading the Ember Operative gives Celosia her last hope at redemption. They seek to overthrow the Council once and for all, this time bringing the fight to Valeria, the largest city under the Council’s iron grip. But Celosia’s new teammates don’t trust her—all except for a powerful ice Elementalist named Ianthe who believes in second chances.

With Council spies, uncontrolled magic, and the distraction of unexpected love, Celosia will have to win the trust of her teammates and push her abilities to the breaking point to complete the Ember Operative. Except if she falters this time, there won’t be any Elementalists left to stop the Council from taking over not only her country, but their entire world.

You can add Daybreak Rising to your GoodReads TBR shelf today, and pre-orders should be live from Torquere soon.

About the author

Kiran Oliver is a Southern New Hampshire University graduate having majored in Communication with a PR focus. He currently attends Free Code Camp in the hope of earning a certificate in Full Stack Web Development while working as a freelance technology journalist. When he’s not writing for work, he’s creating novels such as DAYBREAK RISING for fun.

When not daydreaming about lesbian pirates, queer lady paladins, or dragons, Kiran can be found at the gym or playing MMOs. He resides in New Zealand with his wife Elizabeth, their cat, Ember, and soon to be a puppy named Zephyr.

Find Kiran on social media:

Twitter – @coliver_writes
GoodReads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14011102.C_K_Oliver
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/authorCKOliver